Workplace Eye Health & Safety
If something were to happen to your vision, would you still be able to do your job, earn a living and support yourself or your family? Many of us take good eye health practices and safety for granted – but we shouldn’t, and that includes at our workplace.
Whether you work at a desk or in an industrial setting, there are steps you and your employer can take to protect and be kind to your eyes. You can reduce your risk of eye problems from computer use, UV radiation and injury.
At work and at home, people are recognizing the vision and eye-related problems that can arise from using computers. These concerns – which typically include blurred vision, eye strain and headaches – are generally known as computer vision syndrome or CVS.
To reduce your risk for CVS:
- Position your monitor in a manner conducive to strong, erect posture.
- Ensure you are able to direct your eyes slightly downward at the screen.
- If you alternate between the screen and paperwork, consider obtaining a clipboard that attaches alongside your monitor.
- Adjust the lighting of your surroundings to reduce glare on your computer screen.
- Adjust contrast and brightness settings to find the optimal settings for your eyes.
- Sometimes people use monitor filters or even wear visors to keep detracting glare to a minimum.
- If your eyes bother you, concentrate on blinking regularly or, if recommended by your Doctor of Optometry, try artificial tear eyedrops.
For problems at home, check with your BCAO Doctor of Optometry, who can inform you about other options available to tired, straining and blurry eyes.
While most Canadians rank vision as their most important sense, accidents can happen.
B.C. workers are required by law to wear safety eyeglasses when handling materials likely to injure the eyes – and your employer is required to provide them. Whether you work in an industrial setting, take care of the garden, or handle home improvements, wearing safety glasses is the only way to avoid serious eye injury.
Safety glasses should cover the front of the eyes, as well as the sides and top, so small airborne particles can’t get in. Safety glasses are appropriate for any situation where flying matter can enter the eyes.
Safety glasses differ from regular eye wear in that the lenses are made from polycarbonate and must adhere to Canadian Standards Association, American National Standards Institute and WorkSafe BC requirements.
Safety frames are also sturdier than standard eye glasses and the lenses have to pass a “drop ball” test, which involves dropping a hard ball on to the lens from a certain height. If the lens cracks or shatters, the lens fails to make the grade.
Why take risks when it comes to your sight? Whether you’re working with hazardous materials or operating a weed whacker, wear safety glasses or goggles and protect your most important asset – your vision. It’s that simple.
UV radiation from the sun or man-made sources can harm the cornea, lens and retina of the eye, both immediately and long-term. Wearing sunglasses, prescription or safety glasses with anit-UV coatings is a must!
Sunlight is by far the greatest source of UV radiation. Long-term exposure to the sun’s UV-A and UV-B rays can prematurely age the eyes and lead to cataracts. Man-made sources of UV-C can harm the eyes of workers if you’re not wearing the appropriate safety eyewear.
Noticeable signs of UV harm to the eyes may include immediate, but temporary, pain, inflammation of the cornea of the eye, and an aversion to light. This type of burn is commonly known as welder’s flash, snow blindness, ground-glass eyeball, or flash burn, depending on the UV source.
In B.C. workplaces where employees can be exposed to man-made UV radiation, employers are required to measure the levels of UV radiation, and ensure that exposure is within the guidelines. If not, they have to make changes to protect the worker – which may include providing protective clothing and eyewear if other means cannot reduce the UV to acceptable levels.
If you work with or near high sources of UV, such as arc welders, make sure you have proper UV protection for your eyes. Man-made ultraviolet sources include various types of UV lamps, arc welding torches, and mercury vapour lamps. In dental and medical practices, UV radiation can be used for killing bacteria, creating fluorescent effects, curing resins and phototherapy. Suntanning booths also use UV radiation.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety indicates examples of workers at potential risk from exposure to UV radiation include outdoor workers, construction workers, paint and resin curers, plasma torch operators, welders, farmers, food and drink irradiators, hairdressers, laboratory workers, lighting technicians, lithographic and printing workers and police.
For more recommendations on personal eye health and safety in the workplace, visit your BCAO member optometrist. Employers are encouraged to check out BCAO’s Occupational Vision Program.